SouthCoast Health physician answers your questions about best practices for handwashing

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The first week of December is National Handwashing Awareness Week, a reminder to keep your hands clean to stop the spread of germs during flu season.

As coronavirus case numbers rise across the country, experts say handwashing is important now more than ever.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), washing your hands is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick.

Physicians at SouthCoast Health say to avoid buying hand sanitizer with less than 60 percent alcohol content. Studies show that antibacterial gel with any less alcohol doesn’t consistently kill germs.

“You touch your mouth, your eyes, your nose throughout the day many many times without realizing it,” Dr. Misal Patel of SouthCoast Health said. “You touch doorknobs, desks, phones, keyboards, so many things that other people come into contact with as well so the best thing to do is to keep your hands clean and be mindful of what you’re touching.”

Hear more from SouthCoast Health’s Dr. Misal Patel below:

Q: When should I use soap and water vs sanitizer?

A: “Soap and water can remove certain germs that cause diarrhea and can remove grease or dirt from your hands, while hand sanitizer can’t do that. Soap forms a lather that forms pockets around germs to trap and remove germs. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers work by killing the germs on your hands, they don’t really remove them from your hands and they don’t kill C. Diff or norovirus, bacteria that cause diarrhea.”

Q: Is antibacterial soap superior to plain soap?

A: “I would recommend plain soap. Antibacterial soap is not necessary. Studies have shown antibacterial soap can contribute to antibody resistance.”

Q: How long do I have to wash my hands and why?

A: “You want to wash them for 20-seconds. Hum the ‘Happy Birthday” song twice. Anything less than 20-seconds, you have the possibility of leaving some germs behind. Make sure to get under and around your nails as well.”

Q: Should I wash my hands with warm or cold water? Does it matter?

A: “Warm or cold water, you can use either/or. The temperature of the water does not matter.”

Q: Should I use a paper towel or hand dryer to dry my hands?

A: “There’s not enough evidence if one is superior to the other when it comes down to minimizing the germs on your hands. Wet hands transmit germs easier than dry hands do. Whichever is available, use it and make sure your hands are dry.”

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